We live within a culture that is constrained by a worldview rooted in a devastating illusion which infects our way of experiencing, attending and relating with our inner selves and our outer world.
Within our dominant worldview, the ‘self’ as an organism is deemed separate from, and in competitive struggle with, its environment. This worldview forms a paradigmic logic of exclusion rather than inclusion, where organisms and beings are objectified as struggling for survival through dog-eat-dog competition within an evolution of selfish ascendency. This is the logic upon which our Western education systems, business systems and social systems draw from, yet it is deeply divisive and woefully inadequate. Enter the capitalist consumerism of today’s individualistic culture characterised by control-based thinking, domination, hierarchy, status, fear and exploitation.
This logic corrupts how we relate to each other and the wider matrix of life we inhabit. It is what C.S. Lewis called ‘the philosophy of Hell’ tending towards what Albert Einstein called an optical illusion of consciousness that sets us apart from each other and Nature. It is this corrupting logic that breeds the problematic symptoms facing us today whether in business, in social welfare, health and education, setting humanity on collision course with collapse.
If the vast majority of the world’s leading scientists are to be believed, we are fast running out of time to alter the error of our ways. It would seem most timely to address the root cause of these problems so that we can move forward with real solutions unconstrained by the corruptions that caused the problems in the first place.
Dealing with the root cause of today’s plethora of problems is what the newly released book The Illusion of Separation focuses on. It explores the whys and wherefores of corruptions in our ways of thinking and experiencing the world and then uncovers a way ahead to shift our dominant story of ‘self as separate’ and ‘Nature as commodity’ into a fresh and timeless logic. It draws upon East and West wisdom and blends ancient philosophy with pioneering new thought. Are you up for crossing the threshold? Here we find the answers to our pressing challenges.
The book has been blessed with numerous reviews – here are three recent ones from recognised experts in their respective fields:
‘With clarity and insight Giles Hutchins analyses the roots of our present collective mind-set of separation, and yet shows how science and spirituality point to a deeper, inclusive consciousness. Here are signposts for a future that is vitally needed in the present moment, if we dare to cross the threshold’
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D. Sufi teacher and author, Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth
‘Cutting through habitual denials and academic evasions, Giles Hutchins exposes the delusion at the root of our planetary crisis. And with a holographic richness of resources and disciplines, he discloses—indeed activates—the attitude that might just provoke our needed evolution. This is a wise and urgent text: may it be heard, and soon!’
Catherine Keller, Professor of Constructive Theology, Drew University, author of On the Mystery
‘As the world cries out for the shift in perception we know is needed, this is a positive response to the deep seated crisis we face. We may be aware of being, but we have lost contact with the “beingness” of which we are aware. But how do we “opt in” rather than opt out? How do we “participate” in creation, rather than seek its control and mere consumption? Here lie the answers… As this book so ably demonstrates, it is our task is to make the turning possible. The brilliance of it is that it explains how.’
Ian Skelly, broadcaster and writer, co-author of Harmony by HRH The Prince of Wales
Giles Hutchins applies twenty years business experience to the emergence of new logic inspired and in harmony with nature, for a short video see here.
It is my deep knowing that the world is flowing with exquisite, intrinsic beauty; only our way of attending prevents us experiencing this unfolding beauty. I have always sensed a ‘ground of being’ from which everything in life is rooted. This ground of being I refer to as Mother Nature. From as early as I can remember, I have been in love with life, in awe of its beauty, creativity and deep wisdom, occasionally unveiled for the briefest of moments upon my poor consciousness tuning-in.
In this way, I perceive Nature as a deep matrix, cosmic womb, collective unconscious or instinctual, archetypal field from which creative energy spawns forth in a process of evolution. I have little doubt – yet no proof – there lies past, present and future, which an attuned shamanic conscious may pick up. This sacred ground of being or pregnant womb from which all things become, permeates everything and flows throughout every atom. I suspect it is what Western scientists comprehend when seeking to define ‘dark matter’ or the ‘quantum vacuum’ as an all-pervasive presence throughout the cosmos. Nothing is separate from it, with everything, by its nature, being steeped in sacredness.
To de-sacralise and dis-respect our own Mother is the most fundamental of errors incurred by humankind – the ultimate sin. This ‘illusion of separation’ is a distortion of reality we have created through our rational minds in an attempt to atomise and box-up reality into tidy definitions, so that we may plan, analyse and manipulate. It is a tendency that, with egotism, can tend towards a wilful desire to seek dominion over Nature, to predict the unpredictable and control the wild world. Yet, in so doing, we rationally abstract – or sever – objects and subjects from their lived-in context in a way that they become deemed divorced from and devoid of the all-pervasive presence flowing throughout life. In our desire to understand life we de-sacralise it.
The Illusion of Separation is sown deep into the very fabric of our socio-economic and political models and the scientific-philosophy of rationalism that underpins them. It stems from a flawed logic of how the world works; a corruption hallmarked by an artificial construct of separateness which severs self from other and Nature. Hobbesian, Cartesian, Neo-Darwinian logic sees relationships as self-maximising power-plays, where one benefits only at the expense of the other. It is what the anthropologist Gregory Bateson understood as the ‘original corruption’ which pits us against Nature setting us up for an evolutionary cul-de-sac of selfish ascendance. It is also what de-sacralises matter and so allows us to exploit everything around us – including human interrelations – for our own material gain with scant regard for the deeper repercussions to the physical and psychical matrix. The Golden Rule ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ becomes little more than an ethical rule to be dispensed with at the slightest opportunity. The deeper wisdom this golden nugget affords us is lost amid the contagion of consumerism. Even with more recent findings on ‘interconnectedness’ and Gaia Theory are explained away through the means of materialism, and so once again any opportunity for deeper wisdom is obscured from view by this narrowing lens.
Prevalent logic sets humans apart from each other and from the rest of Nature viewed through the lens of competition, control and rationalism. It is this flawed logic that is at the heart of all our crises – world poverty, climate change, biodiversity loss, social inequality, wars, etc. So often, we find ourselves applying the very logic that created the problems to our design and delivery of well-intended solutions. My vision of the world is one that looks beyond the illusion created by yesterday’s logic where a fresh, yet ancient, logic flows free.
My vision is of a global home where we freely reciprocate in the co-creative, participatory, improvisational dance of Nature. We celebrate life’s adventure through learning to love ourselves, each other and all aspects of life. This is a world where we re-cognise the ground of our being in our midst: each unfolding moment of magic, where miracles spawn. A world where our interrelations within this sacredness allow us to swim the seas of synchronicity – whether local or global, community or business, for-profit or non-profit – where small steps of change resonate with love and devotion; where we each take responsibility for the quality of our attention and intention.
We do not need to impose another ideology or set of beliefs onto reality. Instead, we need to hold space for opening and heightening our attention individually and collectively – this way we can allow the truth to co-creatively emerge free from dogma. Nature, within and all around us, is the participating aliveness of this co-creativity. There is no better time and place than the situation we find ourselves in for us to open our hearts and minds to Nature – this is the beginning of a truly sustainable logic: inspired by and in harmony with Nature.
See a short video here on the new book The Illusion of Separation out 16th October, with Floris Books.
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Here is The Illusion of Separation book
Often we struggle to comprehend how Nature can be imbued with wisdom. After all, we are taught that intelligence and wisdom stem from nowhere else but our human brains. Yet, recent findings in neuroscience, psychology, medicine, ecology and quantum theory are shedding light on what the wisdom traditions of East and West and the ancient shamanic cultures have long known: there is more to Nature than meets the eye.
Once upon a time, all human societies were immersed in Nature, rooted in its ways where other-than-human life and Mother Earth were understood as part of a greater kinship, a collective within which we form a part, like a thread in a beautiful, continuously evolving tapestry. Back then, we viewed Nature and all matter as imbued with spirit; everything was animate to differing degrees. Matter was sacred as was each and every expression of Nature. The ancient Presocratic Greek philosophers drew on this shamanic heritage. They perceived wisdom – Goddess Sophia – as flowing throughout life. To tune into this wisdom was the way to attain Goodness, Truth and Beauty. Here one found the right way of doing things and the laws needed for enabling right society to form. Here we find the origins of Western philosophy – the word philosophy coming from the Greek philo meaning love and Sophia the goddess of wisdom flowing throughout Nature.
Over time, however, our Western logic has tended towards what today we call ‘rationalism’ and ‘materialism’ where Nature is defined and categorised into abstract bits of matter devoid of wisdom; the only purpose being commoditisation for human material betterment. Yet, more and more people these days are re-cognising that there is more to life than commoditisation. However, on a day-to-day basis our individual and collective behaviour spawns from a way of attending that perceives us as separate from the very matrix of life we live within. To perceive life in this way corrupts us from our very Nature and leads to all sorts of unsustainable downstream ramifications – egotism, domination, wars, ecological destruction, psychic suffering, selfishness and greed. This flawed logic sets us apart from each other and Nature. It is what Einstein spoke of as an optical illusion of consciousness which now manifests as a devastating delusion. It underpins Neo-Darwinism, colonialism and capitalist consumerism.
The good news is we can deal with the mother of all problems at source by re-membering what flows within and all around us. It costs nothing and yet provides profound benefits, healing ourselves and our ways of relating with others. Opening ourselves up to Nature allows us to quieten our chattering ego-minds. Sitting next to a tree, on the grass, or a park bench and letting go of our busy-ness can allow for a slowing down in our minds and bodies to occur. Being present in Nature for a handful of minutes (hopefully more) allows for a softening of our problem-questing, anxiety-accumulating ego-mind. Our seemingly insatiable desire to ‘have’, ‘want’, ‘own’, ‘consume’ wanes as a deeper authenticity opens in our awareness.
Much has been studied and written about our left and right brain hemispheres and how they attend to reality in very different ways – the right sees life in its dynamic, flowing, connective way, and the left abstracts parts of what the right hemisphere sees so that it can define and categorise it, yet in-so-doing severing ‘things’ from their lived-in context. As we quieten ourselves within Nature, evidence shows that our left and right brain hemispheres cohere, and if we relax further we may allow our heart and brain to entrain bringing all sorts of physiological and psychological healing. This is where we find a fresh logic unshackled from the illusion of separation.
As we open ourselves up to this deeper Nature, our grasping for commodification lessens and our perception horizon widens and deepens. Here we open up to the ‘ground of being’ which has been referred to as the Imaginal Realm, Collective Unconscious, Cosmic Intellect, Tao or Divine Ground by great minds before us. As Carl Jung knew, this is where our psychic quicksilver lies. Here our rational and intuitive reasoning cohere and we may sense a presence that is very real and potent yet intangible. It is what quantum scientists allude to as an all-pervasive ‘quantum vacuum’ flowing through everything. This is where we find true inspiration beyond facts and figures, digits and designs; here we become inspired by and in harmony with Nature. The Eye of the Heart that Jesus, Buddha and other prophets point to is opened. It may feel like an epiphany or like ‘being in the zone’ whereupon we sense something clear and present within and around us, where everything seems to flow effortlessly and synchronistically. It is this same ‘ocean’ that artists, creatives and performers as well as athletes and leaders drink from when they are realising their full potential (or rather they are allowing something greater to permeate their ego).
And so, when someone asks me ‘what can we learn from Nature?’, I would say that, at one level, we may learn to quieten our minds, release tensions and toxicity in our bodies and put ourselves in a better mind-set to relate in the world. At another level, we may learn to realise that our ‘bodymind’ can tune-in to wisdom beyond the confines of our self-limiting ego-consciousness. Here we may find balance, patience, intuitive insight, well-being and creativity while releasing out-dated mental patterns and configuring new ones. To attune with the ground of our being is the most radical of all actions whether activist or accountant, politician or musician. The transformational times we now find ourselves in demand we activate this fresh yet timeless consciousness, now and for all time.
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The root meaning of wildness is being wilful or uncontrollable. It is an expression of self-will beyond oppression, rather like nature unfolds in its own myriad of ways, unconfined and ultimately unpredictable. Life is inherently wild. And yet in our paradoxical quest for simultaneous security and freedom, we have sought both to control and wall out this wildness – this ‘sea of troubles’. Our rational abstraction of reality defines, boxes-up, and confines within an unnatural order of its own making. As part of our civilising process we grasp for predictability by de-contextualising and domesticating life. We remove the essence of wildness from life in order to tame it. Yet we overlook the insight this wildness brings and in so doing confine our true, naturally creative and empathic selves. Within the apparent chaos of wildness is a profound beauty and coherence, which is far removed from the anarchistic free-for-all that some of us fearfully imagine – a co-creative evolutionary dance of vibrant diversity.
It is our quest for a completely definable and thereby static order, tamed, tied-down and ultimately non-alive, which seeks to banish wildness. Yet it is within and through wildness that natural truth metamorphoses into an ever-folding and unfolding deeper manifestation. This wildness we should celebrate not denigrate. It should be danced with, not cut up into bits or caged.
‘What is wild cannot be bought or sold, borrowed or copied. It is.’ Jay Griffiths
It’s true that our rationalistic, materialistic scientific paradigm with its defining atomism and rigid framing has brought great strides in technological advancement – but who knows how much more (it need not be less!) could have been possible if we had stayed truthful to nature? By removing the essence of wildness from our reality we dislocate ourselves from nature, and an anxious sense of separation and dis-ease ensues. There is so much we can learn from nature’s wildness if we allow our quest for understanding to be unrestricted by abstract rationality. We need at long last to allow the wildness back into our way of understanding, because rationality devoid of wildness is crudely simplistic and non-sense-making – a refuge for ignorance and needless complication and conflict – neither simplifying nor sensible.
‘In the wild waters of the world, the fish does not go under. It is in its element. Amidst the unpredictable it swims in grace’. Catherine Keller
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Companies that mimic living systems have been gaining market share over more traditionally managed firms, which generally model themselves on mechanical systems.
Firms that mimic living systems have an existential awareness that they are living communities of people, committed to serving other people, and that they all depend on Nature for their sustenance. This fundamental recognition creates spontaneous demands within the firm to live harmoniously and respectfully with the larger living systems on which we all depend (biosphere, society, markets).
SoL (a leading business management organisation that explores the connection between organisational learning precepts and business success) published ‘Profit for Life’ a few years back by Jay Bragdon. Since this publication, SoL has been researching and tracking how certain organisations (ones that mimic living systems) perform against other more traditional organisations (mechanistic, short-term profit maximising, capital-centric organisations). In essence, this research explores the business paradigm of machine versus living, or as I refer to it in The Nature of Business (here for North American version ) mechanistic firms of the past versus organic firms of the future.
Mechanistic, reductionist firms of the past -> Organic, emergent firms of the future
Northfield Information Services (a global consultancy advising many of the largest banks and asset managers) performed an in-depth analysis to assess these ‘living’ firms that mimic nature with the more traditional mechanistically-focused firms. This resulted in the Global Living Asset Management Performance (LAMP) Index®. For more detail on this please see ‘Companies that Mimic Life’ where the market returns of these organisations are researched and tabulated.
The conclusion drawn from the detailed research is that businesses that model based on living systems (businesses inspired by nature) gain market share and out-perform those that model on mechanistic systems. Leading organisations, it would seem, are adapting to the social and environmental damage caused by traditional business approaches.
So why aren’t all organisations becoming ‘inspired by nature’ why is it still only for the leading pioneers?
The barrier to adaptation is inertia. For over five centuries our prevalent approach to business (likewise for science and society) is rooted in empirical thought which flowered during the Enlightenment, yet inhibiting our evolution to further ‘enlightenment’. As SoL report:
‘Today, most leaders in business and finance – indeed most business schools – are so captivated by empiricism and its material successes that few dare to question its linear thinking assumptions.’
As Peter Drucker once insightfully said
‘in times of great turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil itself but facing it with yesterday’s logic’
Hence the prevailing business paradigm has sown the seeds of its own demise. The good news is many in business are ‘seeing the light’ and challenging yesterday’s logic. For instance, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, said recently:
‘Too many people think in terms of trade-offs that if you do something which is good for you, then it must be bad for someone else.
That’s not right and it comes from old thinking about the way the world works and what business is for: Milton Friedman’s optimisation of short-term profits.
We have to snap out of that old thinking and move to a new model.’
So what is the new model? A business inspired by & in harmony with nature. This is what is explored in ‘The Nature of Business’.
The attributes that are highlighted in the LAMP research of ‘companies that mimic life’ as out-performers in their respective markets strongly resonate with the firm of the future characteristics put forward in ‘The Nature of Business’:
- T hey are highly networked to facilitate feedback and information exchanges within the firm and without. Many of these networks are informal, self-organizing consortia of employees, suppliers, and customers. When you layer these networks over one another and the firm’s chain of command, you get a structure that looks much like a double helix.
- T hey manage by means (MBM), understanding that people and relationships are the primary means by which they build network capacity and create value. They strengthen and empower employees by practicing servant leadership. They also give employees decision-making authority in their areas of competence and hold them accountable for results.
- T hey optimize their use of physical resources by “closing the loop” so the waste of one process becomes food for another. In doing so, they aim for factor efficiencies by producing more value for customers with less input of energy and materials.
- T hey are exceptionally open in the ways they share information with employees and in their desire for stakeholder feedback. They know such openness builds trust, learning capacity and adaptability.
- T hey nurture the larger living systems of which they are a part (Nature, society, markets) because they understand the inherent connection of all life.
Now we know the problems with the old paradigm and we know what the new paradigm looks and feels like, the only challenge left is (admittedly quite a sizeable challenge) transforming old thinkers and doers from yesterday’s logic into prototyping for the future – inspired by nature. For that we need to transform business education (still inherently empirical and mechanistic), business leaders (the majority still short-termist and reductionist), business managers and employees (fortunately Gen Y seem more clued up about the transforming landscape but the reality is that the majority are still inured by the prevailing paradigm, having been educated that way). Hence, the vital importance of education – business education at a leadership, management and employee level – that is creative and forward-thinking, pushing boundaries and prototyping the future while challenging yesterday’s logic (not simply regurgitating past dogma). That is the challenge and also an immense opportunity for those in positions of influence within business education.
Fortunately, there are already good examples of business academia prototyping the future, for instance SoL mentioned above (associated with Harvard Business School & MIT) and Exeter University Business School’s One Planet MBA.
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Yesterday’s logic of materialism and egotism has stripped bare our inner and outer worlds, creating wastelands in desperate need of restorative regeneration.
Our world and humanity require emancipation from the enslaving grip of this egotism and materialism.
Through how we interrelate – our attitude – we can help break-free of negative patterns and mind-sets that drain our life energy. In so doing, we allow energy to flow into new patterns, new ways of relating and operating.
At its most fundamental, this is an act of love where we re-awakened to the sacred wonder of life beyond the confines of self-limiting logic.
‘Through the simple recognition of life’s nature as we go about our ordinary lives, we open ourselves and the world around us to dimensions within life that have been veiled from us by all the layers of projections, patterns of denial… Within our consciousness the inner and outer, the visible and the unseen worlds, can come together and speak to each other and our split-apart world can become whole again.’ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
It is our consciousness that allows a commingling of these primal and potent energies within us. We are midwives to these new ways of relating so essential to life beyond the illusion of separation and fear.
‘Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.’ Bob Marley
An attunement of our consciousness within the deeper consciousness of Nature through every evolving moment is our birth-right. This is our inherent capacity as humans, where we re-cognise the wisdom of Nature. It is nothing other than the present moment in our midst that provides the opportunity for this sacred awakening whereupon we birth (or resurrect) a new dawn. Problems, anxieties and fears fade like mist with the morning sun as we free ourselves from self-imposed restrictions formed by the control-based logic of our collective mind-set.
Life’s divine nature is the simple presence of each unfolding, participatory moment, unadulterated by our grasping for conclusions, categories, facts and figures. The primal magic of Nature is here-and-now; here is where the answers lie.
‘Look deep into Nature and you will find the answers’ Albert Einstein
‘We are here to remember the sacred nature of life… Divine presence is not an isolated occurrence, not a single sighting to be revered… but an outpouring of love that is a constant stream coming into life… It needs to be embodied and fully lived.’ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
Our science is helping us understand the sentience of every cell, and yet still we collectively struggle to perceive the intense beauty of life beyond the veil of our egotism and materialism.
It is our own egos that cast us out from the inherent wisdom of Nature by creating a sense of separation and isolation in us that then tyrannises over us in the form of fear, anxiety, competitiveness, envy, control and resentment. In encapsulating ourselves in our own ‘comfortably numb’ ego-consciousness we sever ourselves from wisdom and corrupt our attitude by attempting to enslave and control the wild, unpredictability of reality. Enter the social, economic and ecological mess in our midst.
Now is the time to re-sacralise the flowing, connective, enchanting magic of each evolving moment.
‘He who is harmony with Nature hits the mark without effort and apprehends the truth without thinking.’ Confucius
By re-membering our true Nature once again, we re-open the gates of grace and allow love to flow through all we be and do. This is our evolutionary path, leaving behind the distracting and ultimately fruitless side-shows of egotism and materialism. This alone will rob the illusion of its corrupting power at source. Then our true meaning and purpose will become clear as day.
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Hot of the Press: Giles Hutchins new book The Illusion of Separation is due out in a few weeks.
‘With clarity and insight Giles Hutchins analyses the roots of our present collective mindset of separation, and yet shows how science and spirituality point to a deeper, inclusive consciousness. Here are signposts for a future that is vitally needed in the present moment, if we dare to cross the threshold and awaken to a direct experience of a world alive with love.’ – Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, PhD, Sufi teacher and author, Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth